Review of "This Boy's Life"

Tags: book  review  non-fiction 

In early 2000 my mother sent me the book “This Boy’s Life” by Tobias Wolfe. I had put off reading it until just a few weeks ago when I read it over a four day period. Within forty pages I understood why my mother liked it and why she thought I would like it.

“This Boy’s Life” is the story of Tobias Wolfe’s adolesence. During this period, Tobias has a yearning to become a stoic intellectual perceived by others as sophisticated, urbane, and resilent. The reality of his situation, his lack of discipline, and his general feelings of unworthiness prevent this yearning from being anything but. His mother is the constant in his life yet she moves the two around the United States both to reinvent herself and to escape destructive relationships. She eventually remarries a man whom regularly engages in the emotional abuse of Tobias. That all said, we never truly feel sorry for Tobias. His persistent arrogance and criminal ingenuity often allows him to overcome the adversity of his immediate situations.

This book tells a story that any hopeless romanctic should find familiar. The books primary theme concerns the stark contrast between our desires and the reality of our situations. The struggle between these two notions can move humans to self-loathing, betrayal, deceit, inspiration, or, perhaps, self-improvement. I think my mother recognized that this theme was one that has always been present around me. I believe it is a theme that my mother was never far from as well.